DOBSON — The perfect season remains so, at least for another week.
Surry Central’s tennis team found itself in dire straits on Tuesday afternoon in the second round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs, when Mountain Valley Conference champion Ashe County came calling. In singles, the Huskies won four of the six singles matches, including two matches that ended in tiebreaker sets, and needed just one win in doubles to end the Lady Eagles’ undefeated season.
They never got it.
Central’s three doubles teams all scored 10-7 victories in their matches, and for the fourth time this season, Surry Central pulled out a 5-4 victory over an opponent.
The Lady Eagles, now 18-0 on the season, will host Salisbury (21-1) in Monday’s quarterfinal round. The Lady Hornets, who won the Central Carolina 2A title this season, beat East Montgomery 6-0 in the second round on Tuesday. Salisbury’s lone loss this season came at the hands of 3A Concord back in August.
Central knew it faced a stern challenge in the Huskies. The MVC is a split 1A/2A league in which Ashe County (16-4) leapfrogged traditional powerhouses East Wilkes and Elkin to win the title this season. And it wasn’t because those teams had a bad year; both of them have been ranked in the N.C. Tennis Coaches Association 1A top 10 all season. The Huskies lost once to Elkin, avenged it later on, and its only other two defeats coming into Tuesday were against 3A Watauga, a team that also went unbeaten in the regular season.
On Tuesday, Central got its only singles wins at Nos. 1 and 3. The Lady Eagles’ first team point came from Sarah Marion, who got stronger as the match went on and beat Makenzie Wood 6-4, 6-0. Top seeded Hannah Pardue was taken to a tiebreaker in set one by Caroline Current, but persevered to win 7-6 (7-1), 6-4.
Ashe County, like Surry Central is strong at the bottom of the lineup, and this was the Huskies’ day. Mamie Smith could never get going in a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Karoline Keith at No. 5, and sixth seed Mattie Grace Snow couldn’t hold on after winning set one from Ashley Dollar. Dollar rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-2) victory.
Second seeded Sarah Wyble also couldn’t win a tiebreaker set. Wyble dominated set two against Megan Church, but fell in the tiebreaker, 6-4, 2-6, 1-0 (10-3). Ashe also picked up a decisive win at No. 3, where Anna Corley beat Hailey Robertson 6-1, 6-0.
Central hadn’t been bad. It had been unlucky on the tiebreakers, but sometimes you make your own luck. If the Lady Eagles wanted to play on, it was do or die. Fortunately, this team plays some formidable doubles, with a combined 34-5 mark in the regular season. If the Huskies thought they had it won, they should have reconsidered.
If there was cause for concern, it was at No. 3, where neither Smith nor Snow had been able to beat Keith and Dollar, who now confronted them as a team. But the pairing proved better than two as individuals. Smith and Snow went to 14-1 on the season with a win.
At the same time, both Pardue and Wyble, who beat Currant and Church, and Marion and Robertson, who downed Wood and Corley, were doing their things. There wasn’t even high drama as the Lady Eagles took care of business, all up a break at the end.